FASTEST BALIES GATHER FOR BALL BEARING’S 80TH
DESPITE being a very competitive top racer in South Africa, Keith Berrington- Smith somehow managed not to make any enemies on — or off — the track.
The dividend of this rare gentlemanly trait could be seen when friends from racing days gathered from all over South Africa to celebrate his 80th birthday.
The party was organised by his son Steve at the old Roy Hesketh race track in Hayfields, where the name Berrington- Smith, aka “Ball Bearing”, aka “Rat Trap”, had featured top of the point lists many times until the early 70s.
The racing luminaries at the party included John Truter, Ray Emond, John Rowe, Mike Grant, Alfie Cox, Pat Duckham, Des Zank , Grenville Manton, Chappy Wicks, Peter Ekerold, Alan Northall and side car champion riders, brothers Dennis and Ronny Bosman.
Asked when the birthday boy would arrive, Steve said “that would be my old man now” as a stock- standard old 1.6 Toyota Corolla could be heard screaming around Quarry Corner into the straight. Former chair of the KZN race car club and “always a race organiser” Geoff Minnaar told Wheels “the old nut [ Keith] was always unassuming and an absolute gent, never one to kick the cat”.
Official of many a race, Charles Pratt said in his opinion the man called Ball Bearing was not really human. “I’m sure he was manufactured, for if it rolled on wheels, he could race it.” Pratt recalled one endurance race during which Keith even fell asleep on the straight. “When he got hit from behind he awoke and still left the field standing.”
His son, Wayne, partner at Westdie Motorcucles and as tough a bouncer as ever watched over a nightclub’s door in his youth, had to swallow away the tears while reading the heartfelt letter from brother Bobby in New Zealand.
Keith thanked all the “old bastards” for travelling far from all over SA to gather at Hesketh on the invitation of his sons, as well as Capital Kitchens for sponsoring the party.
The cream of KZN’s old racers gathered to mark the 80th birthday of Keith Berrington- Smith at the Hesketh Race Track on Saturday. Two cakes had to be baked to accommodate all the candles, around which are ( from left) the Berrington- Smiths — Sharon, Steve and Keith, longtime clerk of the course Julian Lurie with ex- racers Robbie Ash and John Truter, now on a cane. To their right are son Wayne and Greg Ter Volbeek, with grandchildren Ryan and Todd flanking grandma Marlene. • ( Right) Wheels editor Alwyn Viljoen presents Keith Berrington- Smith with a painting by Gordon Davies of the old racing circuit around Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg. Keith said was too young to have raced there, but did go to watch.